The European Commission’s package of proposed telecoms reforms will now have to go to conciliation after European parliamentarians, in a surprise vote, again refused to discard an amendment that would force governments to get court permission before disconnecting illegal downloaders of copyrighted content.
MEPs first amended the Telecoms Package bill in September to read: “No restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities” – but their amendment was scrapped by the Council Of Ministers. By yesterday, the institutions agreed a compromise amendment that removed the reference to judicial authorities – but the order of the proposals was reversed by parliament’s president, during a planned but feisty plenary voting session in Strasbourg on Wednesday lunchtime, leaving MEPs to vote on the original amendment, which was adopted in to the bill.
This not only means that the lengthy period it took to reach the compromise was a waste of time – it also leaves undecided the legality of France’s proposed Creation Et L’Internet bill, which would create an agency to warn, warn again, then disconnect freeloaders, as well as Digital Britain’s proposed Rights Agency, which would oversee a similar warning system. Guy Bono MEP, who authored the original amendment, emailed paidContent:UK within minutes, declaring the surprise result “Nouvelle claque pour Sarkozy!” (a new slap in the face for Sarkozy).
– New delay: Despite being just one small part of the Telecom Package, the reintroduction of the amendment now threatens to prolong the package’s implementation still further. The bill would variously give the European Commission more power to veto national telco regulators’ decisions, create a new Europe-wide telco regulator called BEREC and the ability to separate telcos’ infrastructure from their other businesses in extreme circumstances. But, with the Council Of Ministers still opposed to MEPs’ amendment, the entire package will now have to go conciliation between Europe’s key institutions.
– ‘Enroaching’: Catherine Trautmann MEP, the rapporteur who negotiated the compromise agreement, had asked for it to be voted upon as well as the original amendment, since, she said, it goes much farther in securing consumer freedoms – but the president said the original amendment had to be included alone only as it came before the compromise was authored. Digital liberties campaigners will welcome the surprise result. One MEP told plenary: “We feel there needs to be a court decision before the rights of citizens are encroached upon.”